One of the Most popular and controversial issues in modern Christianity is Liberation Theology. This theology, which grew out of the needs of the poor of Latin America, tends to view religions in revolutionary terms. It purports to read the Bible through the eyes of the poor and the oppressed. It believes that the proper role for Christianity is political identification with the struggles of the poor. The opponents of Liberation Theology see it as very close to Marxist doctrine. Liberation Theology has been expressed mainly by Roman Catholic Clergy in Latin America, but it also has a vast support by Evangelical & Missionary Christians.

Here is a case example of one of its first adherents of Liberation Theology, renown in Latin America revolutionary circles, arguably, even as much as the infamous Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Camilo Torres: Colombian Priest and Revolutionary Guerrilla Fighter

Camilo was born in Santa Fé de Bogotá on February 3, 1929.
From a very young age he expressed his intention to study for the priesthood.
In 1954, after being ordained, he went to Belgium to study sociology at the University of Lovaina.
On his return to Colombia five years later, he discovered the complex problems affecting Colombia and immersed himself in them.

Teaching campesinos to read, and sharing with them the little food they could offer him, he came to understand and share their needs. He realized that the corrupt political class of Colombia would not develop policies beneficial to the people, nor hand over power to them, and that it fell to the people to take power for themselves. His contact with ordinary people, and his respect for them and their achievements, convinced him that only through unity could the acquisition of power be achieved, and it was from this perspective that, along with other leaders of the people's movement, he formed the United Front.

Camilo's ideas were constantly developing, and he began to stress the need for unity between Marxists and Christians to achieve the common objective of making revolution “so as to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty and give clothes to the naked.”

Camilo used to say, "Why should we debate amongst ourselves whether the soul is mortal or immortal, when we both know that hunger is mortal?"

He called on Christians to live up to the moral and ethical demands of their faith, contending, "Revolution is not only permitted for Christians, but obligatory", and "Our principal work is to organize the non-aligned majority of the poor classes, who don't belong to any political party, into a program and a line of action that will lead us toward the taking of power by, and for, the poor".

In early 1965 in an open letter to the Colombian people, he wrote, "I have joined the “ELN” Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (National Liberation Army) because in it I find the ideals of the United Front, and the desire for, and existence of, a unity of the base, a people’s base, without differences of religion or traditional parties.

He joined the ELN as an ordinary combatant, and hastened to join the guerillas in the mountains. He happily performed his duties, rejecting any privileges offered him on the basis of his priesthood and history within the people's movement.

His life was under constant threat from the oligarchy, which feared him because they saw his leadership and ideas as a danger to their power in questioning of the structures of repression and creating consciousness amongst broad sectors of the poor classes.

His strong desire to serve led him to ask to participate in political-military actions. He was refused several times because of the risks involved. Nevertheless, he continued to ask, and eventually was allowed to form part of a column that was to carry out an ambush of army troops and attempt to seize their weaponry.

On February 15, 1966, Father Camilo Torres died in combat.

The role of Father Torres in the Colombian guerilla forces involves not only his personal trajectory, but also the mindset of Liberation Theology in the political and revolutionary arena, which leads Men of the Clergy and Christians to join the ranks of revolutionary movements as combatant fighters.

The presence of Camilo, and his contribution to the development of the ELN popular revolutionary movement, despite his tragically early death, began a process of consciousness which inspires Christians and Clergy to collaborate in the transformation of the continent's revolutionary history, and gaining their commitment to the people's struggle.

Through his actions Camilo Torres showed a path that would be taken by many Christian revolutionaries. It is a path which stresses the decisiveness of Christianity’s participation in revolution, and gives the example of personal commitment up to death, if necessary.

Father Torres used to say, "so that the next generation of Colombians will not be slaves."

His actions and his thinking are permanent invitations to struggle, Camilo personifies a liberation project in which men and women are guided by revolution as the unique option for “transforming love for humanity into an effective reality.”

Like Camilo, other priests also joined the liberation struggle as guerillas in the ELN. Among them were Fathers Domingo Laín, Antonio Jiménez, Diego Cristóbal Uribe and Father Manuel Pérez Martínez.

The example of these committed Christian revolutionaries has sown seeds throughout Latin America. Transcending borders and opening new paths for social activity of the poorest classes and the revolutionary struggle.

Camilo formed part of this history, and commitment of struggle “to the death if necessary,” for the liberation of the poorest classes.
Torres' life, work, and death, reflects on the significance to the ongoing liberation struggle of the people of all of Latin America.

“To liberate ourselves from the deadly exploitation and submission that capitalism engenders.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said.
For everyone who is really interested in Liberation Theology i can recommend to read Bartholome de las Casas "Historia de las Indias". It is a shocking document of history which was written by a man with lots of courage.